Greatness is difficult to achieve, and it can be even more difficult to duplicate.
Remember Braylon Edwards, who had all the looks of a fantasy superstar when he posted 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Cleveland Browns in 2007? The Michigan product went on to score 15 times ... the rest of his career. Then there's Peyton Hillis (sorry to pick on the Browns). He ran for 1,177 yards, caught 61 passes for another 477 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2010. His 2011 campaign was brutal, as was the rest of his career. A more recent example is Matt Ryan, who posted an MVP campaign in 2016 that saw him throw for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns while finishing with 347.46 fantasy points. Ryan, who was featured in this column heading into 2017, finished with 228.1 fantasy points last season.
The point here is that one monster season doesn't guarantee another, even if that monster season was recorded by an elite athlete. So, which players who exceeded expectations last season might be in line for a decline in their statistical success in 2018? Here's a list of 10 players, some of whom have established themselves as great players at their respective positions, who could be on the verge of falling to the curse of the magical season and fail to meet expectations in one category (or more).
1. Todd Gurley's 19 total touchdowns: Since 2000, there have been 23 instances where a running back has scored 18 or more touchdowns. In only four of those instances (LaDainian Tomlinson twice, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander) has that runner scored more touchdowns the following season. What's more, almost half of those instances were followed by a campaign with a decline of 11 or more touchdowns. Gurley is, of course, a top-three pick but he has a tough touchdown act to follow.
2. Le'Veon Bell's 406 total touches: Like Gurley, Bell is a stud who is a surefire top-three overall pick in drafts. Keep this in mind, however ... before 2017, there were a combined 17 instances of a running back finishing with 400 or more touches. The average decline in touches these running backs experienced the following year was 111.7! Am I predicting that with Bell? No, not short of an injury situation. But a drop to around 350-375 touches is possible based on the trend.
3. Kenyan Drake's 21 touches per game (last five games): Drake was a beast at the end of last season, so much so that he's now considered a viable No. 2 fantasy running back in 2018 drafts. I'm fine with that mindset but there's no chance he's going to average 21 touches per game like he did in his final five contests of 2017. With Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage also in the backfield mix, I would project Drake to see more in the neighborhood of 15-18 touches per contest.
4. Jarvis Landry's nine touchdown catches: Landry is coming off his best fantasy season, posting career highs in receptions (112) and touchdowns while seeing 161 targets. He's very unlikely to hit any of those marks in 2018, however. The Browns have 150 more targets on their roster compared to last season after adding Landry and Carlos Hyde, and let's not forget that Josh Gordon's target total (42) came in just five games. There is inevitable regression coming for Landry in 2018.
5. Brandin Cooks 19.52 percent target share: Cooks led the Patriots in targets a season ago, and he might well do the same thing in Los Angeles. However, his piece of the pie is destined to decrease as a member of his new team. The Rams have three other players (Cooper Kupp, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods) who saw 85 or more targets last season, and the departed Sammy Watkins saw just a 13.75 percent share. Cooks will also be catching passes from Jared Goff, not Tom Brady.
6. Marshawn Lynch's 227 total touches: Lynch made up for 31.75 percent of the Raiders total offensive touches last season, and he still finished just 24th in PPR points among running backs. Now 32, he is not in a good position to have such a huge haul with the addition of Doug Martin. The back formerly known as the "Muscle Hamster" will see a greater share than either DeAndre Washington (91) or Jalen Richard (83) did a season ago, so a committee mess is possible, if not likely.
7. Russell Wilson's team-leading 95 rushing attempts: The Seahawks running backs were altogether unimpressive last season, so much so that Wilson led the team in backfield touches. That's very unlikely to be the case in 2018 as the team added rookie Rashaad Penny in the first round of the NFL draft and will have Chris Carson back from an injured leg. As a result, Wilson is very likely to go from first on his team in backfield touches down to third.
8. Deshaun Watson's 27.19 point-per-game average: Watson's average in his six starts as a rookie were more than any other quarterback has ever averaged (minimum six starts). That includes Aaron Rodgers (2011), Peyton Manning (2013) and Michael Vick (2010). Talk about a hard act to follow. While I still like Watson, I'm realistic. Expect him to average closer to 18-22 points per game, especially when you consider he's coming off the second ACL repair of his career.
9. Carlos Hyde's 233.8 fantasy points: I might as well just list all of Hyde's 2017 stats, because he's in for a major decline. The RB9 in PPR leagues a season ago, he'll battle rookie Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson for touches in what could be a backfield headache. Also keep in mind ... 40 percent of Hyde's PPR points came as a receiver out of the backfield in 2017. With Johnson and a host of talented wide receivers on the roster, that number is going to decline in a big way.
10. Alex Smith's 295.18 fantasy points: Smith is coming off a career season that saw him throw for 4,042 yards with 26 touchdowns, and finish fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks. He had scored more than 270 points just once in his previous 11 years at the pro level, so a regression to the mean is almost guaranteed. While I do think he can be a solid matchup-based starter in coach Jay Gruden's pass attack, Smith is likely to drop out of the top 10 quarterbacks.